I have to admit, for a while “Heaven is For Real” strays from its intent to preach about the Christian heaven and almost seems to challenge its audience’s convictions. At least it wants to try. But it’s really just more numbing propaganda. The entirety of “Heaven is For Real” Is: “Heaven exists. Or does it? Yes, it exists. Sorry to scare you, folks, it exists. Go home and sleep tight, heaven is for real.” And just to cover all of its bases, the subtitles in the end of the movie assure us that main character Colton is a teenager and is normal. Good, I was worried the kid talking about the supernatural, and creeping his parents out wasn’t all there. Kids say the darndest things, donchaknow.
It’s a shame that Greg Kinnear reduces himself to such manipulative dribble, as he really is just a one note character. Despite given all evidence that his son is merely relying on memories to concoct his idea of heaven (not to mention just making it up as he goes along), he’s a man who is wants to believe heaven exists. And in the end, he’s still very convinced heaven is real. In the literal sense, with angels, mainly because his son says so. Did I mention the only atheist character in the movie is someone who doesn’t believe simply because a past tragedy reduced them to a cynical shell? And she seeks to actively disprove Colton’s experiences? The fiend! Based on the book of the same name, Kinnear plays Todd Burpo, a small town Nebraskan pastor who is everything to everyone. Seriously. He’s a pastor, a volunteer firefighter, a repairman, a coach for a local wrestling team, he plays soft ball, and still is somehow married through it all. Burpo is a man steadfast in his faith.
That is until his cherubic son Colton falls ill from a ruptured appendix, which prompts Todd and his wife Sonja (Kelly Reilly is very fetching) to re-visit their faith in their religion and pray for the best. Though Colton pulls through, he begins to make claims that not only did he visit heaven, but he also talked to angels, and came face to face with Jesus Christ and God. Todd doesn’t seem all that angry that the hospital failed to inform him his son was clinically dead, if for a moment, because he’s so shocked that his son saw heaven! And not just heaven, but the heaven that we all have heard about. Colton really doesn’t think outside of the box with his claims. Despite the best efforts to gauge sympathies, actor Connor Corum looks often confused and completely overwhelmed during his performance. He constantly seems incapable of mustering up considerable emotional pull for his character unless sharing the screen with Kinnear.
He fumbles through lines, and director Randall Wallace tries desperately to pull for cute points almost obsessively zeroing in on Corum’s adorable mug. “Heaven is For Real” throws out the occasional thought provoking nugget every now and then, but they’re lost in a haze of coddling and pandering to Christian audiences. There’s a fine segment in the middle where the committee of the church argue about Colton’s claims, even prompting a character to explain that the idea of heaven shouldn’t be used to replace our brains and way of life, and should by no means act as a crutch. It was once used as a means of frightening believers, after all, she says. Those are fascinating arguments that should have been expounded upon. Sadly, in the end “Heaven is For Real” is one hundred minutes of “Don’t worry, there’s a heaven. You wouldn’t come to this movie for any other reason, amIright?”